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A year after finally reaching the NHL, 33-year-old goalie Jeff Glass seeks a path back

Jimmy Greenfield, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Hockey

CHICAGO -- If Jeff Glass' thick red beard ever turns white, it won't be hard to imagine him as a department-store Santa Claus.

Not that he has the belly for it, but the 33-year-old goalie's cheery disposition remains off the charts.

Blackhawks fans first got wind of Glass during the 2017-18 season when he made his NHL debut on Dec. 29 at age 32 and became a feel-good story during a dismal campaign. Glass' 15-game tenure didn't bring on-ice success -- he went 3-7-3 with a 3.36 goals-against average and .898 save percentage -- but it did come with rewards that go far beyond the scoresheet.

"Last year was a fun year for me, personally," Glass said Thursday. "At the time you don't really enjoy it as much as you do after. Once I got home in the summertime it kind of sunk in that I checked off a few things on my list of things to do. If anything, it made me more motivated this summer to get back to that level."

The Hawks didn't re-sign Glass, and as he has done throughout a nomadic career that landed him in Russia for seven years, he moved on. He is the starting goalie for the San Diego Gulls, the opponent of the Wolves in the AHL's Western Conference finals that begin Friday night at Allstate Arena.

"Obviously, I didn't play (in the NHL) this year but it's still on my list of things to do and get back to that level," Glass said. "I think last year I proved I can play there. It was one of the best organizations to play with, so it was a lot of fun."

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While he reveled in finally making it to the NHL 13 years after the Senators drafted him in the third round, Glass found himself without a team when summer ended. He attended Flames training camp on a professional tryout but wasn't offered a contract. Within a couple of weeks, the Maple Leafs called. They signed Glass to an AHL contract with their affiliate in Toronto.

Glass played 10 games with the Marlies before he was traded to the Ducks and assigned to the Gulls. As the regular season wore on, Glass earned more playing time, and he's started all 10 Gulls playoff games, going 7-3 in the first two rounds.

His most impressive performance was one of the best in AHL history. In Game 1 of the Gulls' second-round series against the Bakersfield Condors, Glass stopped 51 shots in a 3-2 quadruple-overtime victory, the fifth-longest game in league history.

The 51 saves set a franchise record and helped reinforce what Glass already knew: he's nowhere near done playing.

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